Friday, January 16, 2009


Scene Two. I sit across from MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY. HIS vast green-tinted glass desk sits between us.

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY: The inclusion of a letter is recommended. It makes it more personal.

ME: A letter?

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY: Or a note. Nothing too overwrought.

ME: Do you want to dictate it to me? So, I'll say the right thing?

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY: There's no right or wrong thing. It should come from me.

ME: I thought you said I should write it.

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY: Did I say, come from me?

ME: Yes.

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY: I meant come from you. It should come from you.

ME: What should I write it on? Should I type it out?

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY: You do realize that I get billed by the hour? I’m handing some of the work, as much work as possible, to my associates to keep your costs down.

ME: That’s very kind of you.

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY: I look everything over, of course!

ME: I bet you do.

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY: But she bills at about half the cost of me.

ME: That’s still pretty damn expensive.


ME: So about this letter…

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY: A note, really. A note. Did I say a letter?

ME: No, I asked you if it should be a letter.

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY: Right. No, no, nothing too much.

ME: I don’t know what to do here. I don’t want to do the wrong thing. I don’t want to upset him.

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY: My guess is that he’ll be pretty upset when gets served the papers. That’s why we do it this way. For your own protection.

ME: But you want me to write this letter.

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY: A note. That’s just my professional recommendation. You don’t have to. Sometimes it’s just…softer. And it lands.

ME: Lands?

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY: Yeah, you know, he gets it. Because he knows it’s coming from you and not some disembodied court or attorney.

ME: I didn’t expect you to be this short.


ME: When we spoke on the phone.


ME: You said “disembodied court or attorney”. So it made me think of you without a body. But you do have a body.


ME: And he’s just going to get the papers. Or maybe talk to you on the phone.


ME: I thought when I talked to you on the phone and I first came into your office that you were taller until you stood up. It may have been the big desk. You have a really big desk.


ME: He could get a really slimy lawyer, right? You said before.

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY: Yes. That’s why we’re being offensive.

ME: I don’t want to offend him.

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY: O-ffensive. As in de-fensive. Offensive.

ME: Proactive. That’s what you called it the last time. So, I guess we’re past the point of speaking euphemistically.

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY: Billable hours.

ME: Right. I don’t know what to say. In the letter.

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY: It should be handwritten.

ME: More personal.


ME: Nice touch.

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY: I’m going to have to read it.

ME: To make sure I don’t say anything wrong?


ME: But you said I couldn’t say anything wrong.

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY: Within reason. I need to check. To make sure.

ME: What should I say?

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY: I can’t tell you that.

ME: I could write it on a Van Gogh card, maybe. He always loved Van Gogh. I can run down to the Hallmark Store. There’s a Hallmark Store on the lower level of your building, did you know that?

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY: I don’t do greeting cards.

ME: I found it the first day. I was early for the appointment so I wandered around downstairs in the shopping area.

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY: I get my shoes shined down there.

ME: You don’t have a personal valet?

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY: Never mind my shoes.

ME: You brought them up.

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY: Let’s focus here. We need to take care of this today.

ME: I didn’t know I'd have to write a note.

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY: You don’t have to, but I recommend it.

ME: Then I have to. Do you think that would be thoughtful?


ME: The Van Gogh card?

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY: You mean Van Gachh?

ME: Are you correcting me?

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY: No, just clarifying.

ME: I hate when people pronounce it like that. It’s pretentious.


ME: Maybe a plain card. But the Van Gogh cards never have any sappy messages in them. They’re always blank. I got him a poster once. Of the blue café with the trees.


ME: No, the café.

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY: I’ll tell you what, why don’t you draft the card, then I’ll approve it and you can pick out the card while we finish the paper work. I have to find a server anyway.

ME: Or maybe someone in the mailroom could do that. So, it’ll be more cost effective for me. What’s the hourly rate for someone in the mailroom?


ME: Of course I’m upset. And now he’s going to be upset. No one else is upset.

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY: Do you want some Kleenex?

ME: No. Thank you. I’m not a runny nose cryer. It’s all in the eyes. Hands work well enough for the eyes. See? And eyelashes. Luckily I’m not wearing mascara.

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY hands me a white legal pad and a pen. I take them.

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY: Here. Why don’t you pull yourself together. Take a breath. Write the note. Don’t over think it.

ME: This could be the last time I communicate with him.


ME: Directly.

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY: Don’t worry about that.

ME: He was my husband.

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY: He still will be if we don’t move forward with this. It’s your choice.

ME: I’m not having any doubts. If that’s what you think.

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY: I’m just asking.

ME: You’re not asking. You’re insinuating. That’s annoying.

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY: Write the letter.

ME: I did all my homework on legal pads because my dad used to bring them home from work with him. In his big brown leather briefcase. But they were yellow.

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY: We don’t use the yellow ones anymore. Too hard on the eyes.

ME: Yeah. This is much easier. A long pause.

ME: It’s just not fair. I mean, that I have to be the one who does this. When he’s giving me no choice. What is it called—the person who brings the action?


ME: Yes. I shouldn’t be the Petitioner when I’m really the what?


ME: Yeah. The Respondent. I shouldn’t have to take responsibility for both of us when I’m just responding to his actions, his withdrawal, his lack of intimacy, his disappearance, his violence and utter inability to actually work through the underlying compulsion that drives his alcoholism, that makes his being a sober nondrinker, a dry drunk, worse than when he was a raging in-denial binge drinker. He won’t leave me but tells me with every single action to leave him. Gives up. Pushing me away when I want to help him. Help us. Not fight in front of the dog because his ears go down and he thinks he’s done something wrong just because he exists. Like a child. I’m the Respondent. He’s not the Respondent.

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY: Life’s not fair, sweetie.

ME: I bet you don’t call your associate, miss less-billable hours, sweetie. Just your female clients.

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY: You’re right. It’s a technique.

ME: You’re kidding.

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY: None of my techniques work on you.

ME: The Kleenex routine?


ME: Sorry. Look. I can’t afford this. I’ll do it.

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY: Good girl. I pick up the pad and pen and write the letter quickly. No cross-outs. I show it to him. He reads it, then looks up at me.

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY: You can’t say this.

ME: Why? What?

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY: The bit at the end.

ME: Which bit?

MY DIVORCE ATTORNEY: You can’t say I love you.

PSYCH by Bob Brader

When I walked into the psychiatrist office I was surprised at how small it was. This is a Fifth Avenue psychiatrist office? They look bigger in the movies. I was sitting in the small waiting room looking down the hall to my right and I noticed the five doors; two on the left, two on the right and one in the middle at the end of the hall. I immediately thought that if she comes out of door number one or two on the right side that it was bad luck and I would leave at once, if she came out of the middle door I would only stay for this session and never come back, but if she came out of door four or five on the left side then she just may be able to help me with my depression. I started mumbling to myself, “Come on door number four or five, four or five it the winner. Hey Monty Hall, I’ll take door number four or five please.”

A People magazine setting on the tiny coffee table caught my eye and I started thumbing through it thinking about the only other psychiatrist I ever saw, or was she a psychologist? Maybe she wasn’t either, but she was as close as I was going to get in the fifth grade. Mrs. Ressacar my fifth grade Guidance Counselor. Now, she had an office, it was huge, and so was Mrs. Ressacar. Everything about her was large--her glasses, her permed hair, her desk--everything seemed larger than normal. The office was long and multicolored. It felt safe, even though she was large; she had a way of making you feel secure.

I went in to talk with her about my father. I told her only a few small things: the backhand I got when we were in a store and he didn’t like the way I asked for something and the way he thought I should stop performing because it embarrassed him because I was not really good enough. She asked a lot of questions and I answered. It felt good just to talk about these things and she made me feel like I could tell her anything and it would be okay.

When I got home from school that day, my mom was already home. “What are you doing telling people what goes on in this house? Don’t you realize that they could take you away from me for this stuff?”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I had to have a long talk on the phone with your Guidance Counselor. Bobby, this is very bad.”
When my father came home, my mom told him what happened.

“Tomorrow you go in there and you tell her it was all a lie, that you made up the whole thing just to get attention. If I find out that you didn’t do this, I’m going to knock your fucking teeth down your throat. Then you will have something to cry to other people about, do you understand me?”

The next day I walked into her office and it felt cold. It was not warm or inviting anymore.
“Thank you for calling my family, that was very nice of you.”

“I have to check into these things,” she said, putting those huge glasses back on her face.
“Well, I lied, and that is all I have to say.”

She tried to get me to talk with her a few more times, and she asked a lot more questions, but I never spoke to her again.

The only other time we spoke is when we had to take these tests in the eighth grade. They were supposed to tell you what career you would be best suited for. When we talked she told me that I might want to consider enlisting in the Marine Corp after graduation. Needless to say, I never wanted to see another psychiatrist after that.

But here I am. At precisely one o’clock door number four opens; it is a little old lady with white hair, a tight leather mini skirt, and a black blouse. It’s my doctor. I walk into the tiny room that only has two chairs and a desk. This lady looks like I can tell her anything and she won’t be fazed at all. I started talking about my depression and then about my last relationship and then about my father.

Towards the end of the session she said, “Wow, I feel like your father was a sociopath.”
“What?” I said. How dare she say that about my father? Only I can say that about my father. And as soon as I had that reaction, my next thought was maybe this lady could really help me.